Houses of the Broken and Other Stories

Third Life – Up on the Roof.

Mother Nature is a bitch. Three weeks into my 3rd retirement and where do I find myself on a unusually balmy December morning? Up on our roof. The wind, you see, had ripped a piece of the (2 year old) fasica trim off, mid early winter squall.

Exactly where I expected to be on a random Thursday morning in December. Totally.

I’m not even sure the last time I’ve been up on a roof. The lower roof was no problem, almost like a familiar friend I scaled up it and perched myself on the peak. Easy. How bad could the second part be?

Roof number two… is beyond a 45 degree angle… closer to a 60 for those protractorally inclined. My body met the immediate forces of gravity as I started up. Step.. slide… crawl.. slide… the more of my body I put in contact, the less grip I had. Still, I worked myself over to the edge. My task… my one task… sitting still and holding on to a belligerent piece of sheet metal…

Waiting for the nails to be set, I laid there… feeling my legs quiver trying to brace themselves against something that held no leverage. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t take my hand off the metal hanging over the edge. Couldn’t adjust myself to better fight the forces of nature. Breathing slowly, I concentrate on every muscle, trying not to lose what little grip I have. Ever so slightly… I slide.

Eighteen inches away from a 25 foot drop on to a concrete pad and miscellaneous patio furniture, and there’s nothing I can do but take a deep breath and try to dig my toes in so I don’t go any further.

Mind over matter.

Every part of me wants to freak out. Between bouts of careful deep breathing with my eyes closed, I try and figure out which way will be the best way to roll when the shingles finally give and I can’t catch myself. I calculate the best option is a barrel roll to the right, which would land me on the lower peak if I’m lucky, providing me with something to grab on to, as long as I don’t bounce too hard. I slide a little bit more. I can’t help my but hold my breath.

I can’t move my hand. Can’t flinch. Can’t let go. Struggling now to save myself from an assumed death, only means starting this whole process over again. I sit tight and fight every urge to indulge my high, anxious voice in a chorus of panic.

The next problem presents itself. I can’t hold and make room for the other nails all at the same time. I can’t move without letting go. And I can’t scooch enough to let the man with the hammer get to where he needs to be. My fingers at this point are already bordering on numb, the cold creeping slowly up my arm.

It’s a far less dramatic version of the dangling hero or heroine you see in the movies. And I’m no Sylvester Stallone. But I don’t complain, I just grit my teeth and hang on.

Finally, the glorious sound of nail meeting wood rings in my ears. I can let go. And I can find my way down the roof in a controlled manner, if I’m lucky. Down is actually harder than up, but once I make it to the center of the roof, my heart rate takes a little rest. Every muscle in my legs is trembling by the time I make it to the ladder, and it takes a concerted effort not to tremble right off of it.

I make it to the bottom before the ladder reaches a sonic vibration mode. It’s hard to look calm, cool and collected when you’re involuntarily shaking like a leaf. I quickly add ‘roof work’ to the list of things I never want to have to do again. Ever.

Once the quivering of my body subsided, with the help of a cool beer and the sofa, the silver lining appeared…

I didn’t want to fling myself off the roof.

At least that’s something.

One response

  1. On belay?

    I’ve been there. Glad you didn’t jump!

    December 7, 2013 at 11:48 pm

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